Swapping for Better Nutrition and Productivity in Rwanda
March 24, 2016

Gloria Uwizeyimana is thankful that she was listening to the radio one day at just the time that a catchy new tune was playing. The song piqued her curiosity with its message about a certain bean variety that was tasty and would make families healthier. At 23 years old, Gloria is a mother of two children for whom she wants only the best.

“When I heard that song, I just couldn’t stop thinking of those beans,” she recollects. “I wanted to try them, to bring those benefits to my family. But I couldn’t find them in my area.”

That song on radio, a collaboration between Rwanda’s top music stars, was the first time that Gloria had heard of iron beans, but it would not be the last. A few months later, Gloria overheard her neighbors talking about the same beans. This time, iron beans had arrived in her village of Musha in Rwanda’s eastern province. Her neighbors were excited about a scheme through which they could trade in their ordinary beans for the new variety. Gloria decided to act immediately.

“I quickly gathered all the beans I had in the house and rushed to exchange them for the iron beans,” she says. “I didn’t have to pay anything.” Gloria received 5 kilograms of iron beans to plant in her half-hectare plot of land. She was prepared to introduce the new beans to her family and to observe its impact on her children’s health. What she was not prepared for was the new variety's other impressive benefit. For, at the end of the planting season, Gloria was surprised beyond measure by the harvests.

“I could not believe it,” she shakes her head in amazement. “I planted 5 kilograms of iron beans and harvested 100 kilograms! With the ordinary beans I would get only 30 kilograms at most.”

The abundant harvests allowed Gloria to feed her family on iron beans and still have plenty left over—50 kilograms—to sell and earn income. That income now enables her to pay her family’s annual health insurance and to contribute her weekly share of 2,000 Rwandan francs to the women’s group savings association in her village.

The initiative that allows Rwandan farmers like Gloria to acquire iron beans at no financial cost is called Swap. HarvestPlus works with local government structures to distribute iron bean seed at scale through Swap. Gloria is among the more than 1.5 million Rwandan farmers that are now growing and consuming iron beans.

Listen to, or watch the music video of, the song that got Gloria hooked on iron beans.

 

 

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